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There will be a morning after (pill)

28 May 2010

To no one’s surprise, the Supreme Court ruled, 11 to one that the “morning after” pill had to be made available in all public hospitals.  Which it has been since 2005.

This never should have been a Supreme Court case, but the Governor of Jalisco, Emilio Gonzalez insisted on bringing the “issue” (specifically, a claim that the “morning after pill” caused abortions, which was already considered, and discarded back in 2005 when the pill was authorized for distribution by the Secretariat of Public Health) to Minister Sergio Aguirre.

Aguirre is sort of the odd man out on the Supremes, having a background not as a legal scholar, but as a politician:  specifically as a right-wing, reactionary Catholic Jalisco politician.  As, obviously, is Governor Gonzalez, who you may remember as trying to steer state development  funds to a memorial to the reactionary Catholic terrorist movement of the late 1920s, the Cristero Revolt.  Oddly, Gonzalez is a PRI politico, Aguirre from PAN.  But in Jalisco, political parties seem to matter less than religious affiliation, and both are Opus Dei Catholics.

The Supremes have consistently upheld — in the DF abortion case, in a ruling from last September that involved the rights of narcotics addicts , and in a textbook case (reported at the same time as the abortion ruling), and in a 2007 case upholding HIV positive soldiers’ rights — that citizens have the right to medical and health information and services.

I try to follow the Supreme Court (none of the other foreign writers do), but honestly didn’t much follow this one, since I knew it was going nowhere.  I had saved some links, but — with limited time and resources, and posting less lately — finally trashed them.

The way the Supreme Court is structured, complaints are assigned to a Minister (as the justices are called) in either “Sala A” (which handles mostly criminal court cases) or “Sala B” (whose ministers are usually from civil courts).  In considering complaints (from Governor Gonzales of Jalisco, naturally) that the Federal District marriage law impacted his state, the question of same gender marriage — being a civil matter — had been assigned it to Minister Sergio Valles.  Minister Valles had already found (and the court had already ruled) that marriage laws were a matter for local legislatures, and what the Federal District legislature had decided was no concern to the Governor of another state (and you think he’d have pushed honeymoons in Puerto Vallarta for same-gender couples… but that’s another matter altogether).

The Minister’s findings are then presented to a quorem of the twelve Ministers for consideration, thrashed out in open hearings and a ruling eventually issued.  It’s not a bad system, at least in theory.

So, basically, in this instance, the Governor of Jalisco (PRI-Opus Dei) brought a complaint to his buddy, Minister Aguirre (PAN-Opus Dei) which led to a finding, as so many other of Minister Aguirre’s do, in not not persuading the other ministers.  Minister Aguirre is assigned to “Sala A” — the criminal courts division, and to make this a criminal matter depended on the “morning after pill” being considered abortion — which is a crime in most parts of Mexico — and that access to (not use of) the “morning after pill” is mandatory for rape victims.  The State of Jalisco claimed that their state laws overrode the federal laws on rape, and that decisions by the Federal Secretariat of Public Health could be a local matter.  Both of which would be a stretch.

Minister Aguirre — even in matters related to criminal cases is often the lone dissenter.  This country has its problems, and the legal system — as the Ministers will tell you — desperately needs reforms — but a politicized Supreme Court is not one of them.

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